Ye Olde Dating DebateA discussion at Prettier Than Napoleon that started out on interracial dating inevitably led back to interpolitical dating, beginning with Ted's comment, "As a Jew, I'm not in the dominant culture. As a free-market libertarian, I'm not even in the dominant subculture within my minority culture. I was very fortunate to find someone who was such a good match, but it took nearly two decades of false starts to find her, and the fall-off between my first ordinal and second ordinal over the last twenty years is gigantic." At which point ziemer chimed in, "good point, ted. dating liberals is bad news." I retorted, "I guess I don't feel the need for someone to be the same as me as long as we see our differences as stimulating rather than divisive. (Why I joined Fed Soc instead of ACS.) Apparently ziemer would fall into the category of people who prefer an echo chamber." Amber defended ziemer, linking her old post on the matter:
I don't think that wanting to date someone with similar political views means that you want "an echo chamber." There can be some real problems with dating across party lines. If you want to build a life with someone, their theory of the good life is relevant. And if you're a person strongly motivated by ideology, your theory of the good life is likely to have close ties to certain ideas. There's plenty of room for romantic frission and stimulating differences outside the political realm.ziemer clarified, "i just don't need to spend the rest of my life with someone who can't understand basic supply and demand concepts," with which Ted concurred and included a series of reminiscences about his battles with those "who can't even master basic freshman economics concepts."
But I disagree with Amber and ziemer that someone who doesn't think the way I do must therefore be retarded morally (Amber's take) or intellectually (ziemer's). Political disagreements do have a basis in different priorities, but those rarely determine each person's sense of "the good life." I never would marry someone who would refuse to attend one of my LGBT friends' same-sex wedding, because that's simply bad manners and indicates actual intolerance, but I could marry someone who thinks that marriage equality is a lower priority than leaving such decisions to be made democratically rather than by application of Constitutional principles. As I do expect to attend commitment ceremonies, but don't expect to be a judge, this is satisfactory for "building a life" with someone. Perhaps I overstate what Amber's post and ziemer's comments were meant to convey. However, most people I know whose belief set falls within that of the major political parties, particularly those who can be described as "very sweet and intelligent," don't hold what I would consider to be morally repugnant views (i.e. they are not consciously racist, sexist, intolerant of other religions, desirous of having homosexuals arrested, etc.). Therefore to see a Republican pro-life activist (for example) as "morally repugnant" strikes me as tending to take a reductionist and simplifying view of others' beliefs -- in other words, seeing them as morally retarded. Certainly some pro-lifers have morally repugnant motivations for wanting to make abortion illegal, but the vast majority I've encountered sincerely think that killing a human life is so awful as to *outweigh* the woman's preferences; they do not regard those preferences as irrelevant. As for ziemer's and Ted's requirement that a girlfriend acknowledge a rise in the minimum wage necessarily, and at all times and in all circumstances, will decrease the number of jobs, this does seem to me to be rather intellectually intolerant. Yes, as an economics major I drew all the proper graphs, but such models can oversimplify (there it is again) how people actually react to such changes in the real world, particularly when they are given the lead time that legislation usually provides to accommodate such changes, for example by increasing prices or reducing non-wage costs of employment.
Ted tried to recategorize terms so that he could say I really was just saying the same thing as Amber, and Amber clarified what she meant in her original post:
You lived in Texas, PG, so I'm sure that you've met at least one person who has seemed smart and nice and you're just chatting or hanging out and everything's cool when suddenly they bust out with something utterly beyond the pale, like the N-word or "faggot" or "Yeah, I think abortion providers deserve to be assassinated." And in your mental soundtrack there's that needle-jumping-off-the record SCREECH and you're like, "do I let this go or say something? Can we still be cool after this?"I refused to accept Ted's attempt to equate "morally repugnant position" with "undateable person." I find it morally repugnant to support torture and put "strict textualism" and "democratic rule of law" above the rights of racial and other minorities, and I find it morally repugnant to think homosexuality is a sinful aberration that should not be legally recognized. But I've dated people who do hold such views so long as they don't involve actually denying the personhood and basic human dignity of others. I really do have a wide range of "I disagree with you but that doesn't make you a bad person." Which is a good thing, as I've dated a couple of hardcore conservatives and have family members who are irked that Islamic terrorism hasn't caused an even greater crackdown on Muslims.
I have been dealing with this all my life. And for better or worse, there are people who I have given up calling on their shit. Some of them I am related to. But when it's some guy who's trying to get in my pants, I am not willing to say that all the person's other virtues or history of good behavior somehow makes up for holding repugnant beliefs. I met some very nice, personable conservatives in law school and college who thought that sodomy should be illegal, that anyone who uses illegal drugs should go to prison, and that contraception should be outlawed; they were in most cases trying to actualize those preferences, either by straight-up activism or by voting. And I tolerated them, in the sense that I did not spit in their faces. But I didn't go to parties with them and I damn sure wasn't about to date them. And at a certain point I decided that even the ones who didn't personally buy into those beliefs, but who were willing to mouth along for the sake of their careers, weren't worth it either.
Regarding Amber's assertion, "I met some very nice, personable conservatives in law school and college who thought that sodomy should be illegal... and that contraception should be outlawed," not letting the lousy-in-the-sack hypocrite who wanted to get into your pants do so is just self-preservation for these positions. However, someone who would want you in prison for consuming illegal drugs seems less obviously bad as a sex partner than a person sincerely opposed to sodomy and contraception.
As a person of color, my life has been sadly devoid of people's thinking I'll roll with the "N-word"; as the terms "person of color" and "minority" evidence, we're understood to be part of a big fraternity devoted to punishing innocent whitefolks from whose lips the word escapes. And in all honesty, no, I've never encountered -- not even in the wilds of East Texas -- a person who struck me as smart who said that kind of thing, even before he said it. People with so little exposure to opposing viewpoints that they can drop such things into casual conversation without first ascertaining that I hold the same views usually don't come off as smart. And people who mouth along with beliefs they don't actually hold strike me as far more repugnant than what Althouse might call the "true believers."
Amber makes the good point that "I would think that torture is an offense against personhood and basic human dignity," and adds "The sort of person who wants to imprison people for victimless crimes (be it sodomy or smoking up) has, in my experience, an authoritarian orientation that makes them difficult for me to get along with outside the bedroom, and I'm not a wham-bam-thank-you-sir kind of person. I think I am using 'smart' in a broader sense than you, just as you are using 'undateably repugnant' in a more narrow one. But that's probably a function of having dated some actually dumb people in my life."
Given that all of the people whom I respect who consider torture a viable option in extreme situations would restrict it to conditions of reasonable certainty of guilt, I don't see the view as failing to respect human dignity along an axis that I would find most objectionable. That is, while I never could be friends with, much less date, someone who thought it acceptable to torture the family members of terrorist -- i.e., those who were innocent but who might be used against the guilty -- I can tolerate while utterly disagreeing with those who think it acceptable to torture the guilty if it is very very likely to result in useful lifesaving information. This is the position held by the majority of Americans and Britons. I'm still opposed to such torture because of the usual reasons: brutalization of those who torture, loss of American stature, inherent uncertainty (how do we determine that "very likely"? how inclined will we become after repeated torturings to lower the probability standard?), etc. But people can disagree with me without seeming monstrously inhumane, just as they can on the death penalty. In part we're assessing probabilities differently -- I think people are likely to overuse torture; those who support its use think it can be well controlled.
I've had little conversation with people who affirmatively want sodomy to result in imprisonment, though there are some who think it should remain illegal to signal some old moral values, or to provide a fallback criminal provision for police and prosecutors to utilize. Those who thought drug use should have criminal penalties tended to be paternalistic (this is bad for you!) or communitarian (this destroys your family/ inner city!). As I'm not sure I'd legalize on-demand sale of all drugs, and dislike punishing only sellers while letting users who create the demand go free, I fit into the authoritarian mindset. After all, I also believe in standard welfare, which takes money from the well-off, not even to give to the poor, but to turn into what I think is good for the poor -- food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid. But I don't apply my political authoritarian tendencies to my personal life; indeed, I tend to try very hard, sometimes probably more than I should, to give other people a wide ambit to pursue what they find good even if I find it distasteful.
I've never dated any actually dumb people, as the selection bias tends to work both ways: I find intelligence attractive, and intelligent people in turn also tend to find intelligent people attractive (so that I've dated guys who could have "gotten" less intelligent but otherwise more attractive people, but whose dating preference skews enough toward intelligence that I looked like the better prospect). Not dating until relatively late in life probably contributed as well, as I could choose without the psychological pressure of whom my clique deemed dateable, and with the larger pool of intelligent people available at a good public university as opposed to a bad public high school.
These discussions of whom one would date strike me as having their greatest relevance in the age of online dating, now that I can go to a website and pick out the race, religion, age range, politics and so forth of the people I would like to date, and similarly identify myself to them. Not having engaged in such, I've followed more of the ass-backwards methodology of dating (and indeed of living life generally): hang out with people you like; see if you end up making out; start dating. Quite likely the more conscious method gives better results and less trauma, but I haven't tried it yet.